AST stands for aspartate aminotransferase; it is a key enzyme in the body. The presence of this enzyme varies in different parts of the body. The enzyme is majorly found in liver, heart, pancreas, kidney and muscle tissues. It is also found in the blood but in smaller amounts. The enzyme is a protein in the body that alters the chemical change of the body for normal functioning. An AST test is done to determine the level of AST in our bodies. The high levels of AST enzymes in blood may indicate some health complications.
High levels of AST
There are high levels of AST enzymes in kidney, heart, liver, muscle tissues and pancreas. Also the high AST level may be present after birth and at an advanced age. When the test for the AST is done and found to be abnormal, the liver could be under attack. In most of the cases those who have up to ten times AST levels above the normal could be suffering from viral hepatitis, cancer of liver, or cirrhosis.
High levels of AST could also be as a result of recent surgery, seizures, heart attack, pregnancy, burns, or injection of certain medicines to the muscle. Toxic substances that affect the liver may also result into high levels of AST. The higher the levels of AST in the blood stream the higher the level of damage of the body organs. When a sudden injury occurs to the major organs such as liver, kidney or heart, the AST levels may rise within six to ten hours. The level may be high for the next four days.
Normal levels of AST
The normal range is between 5 and 40 units for every liter of serum, the liquid component of blood. Normal amount of AST signifies that the body is in perfect shape. The reason why the blood is tested is because when any organ of the body such as heart, kidney or liver is damaged, the enzymes are drained into the blood. Therefore when there is abnormal presence of AST enzymes in the blood that could be an indicator that any of the above organs is damaged.
Low levels of AST
Low levels of AST are present in the blood. The low levels of AST also signify the body is working properly and that no organ is under damage.
Reason for AST test
The AST test is majorly done to determine the presence of the liver diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis. It is combined with ALT (alanine aminotranferase) test then they are measured together to find their ratios. The ratios calculated are very accurate ways of diagnosing the liver damage as compared to kidney or heart damage. It is achieved by draining a sample of blood from the artery in the hand then taken for analysis.
AST tests may be performed to an individual if they portray symptoms of liver disease such as fatigue, dark urine, jaundice, lack of appetite, and vomiting, itchy skins among other symptoms. Test may be done to the individuals that are at high risk of developing liver disease. Such a people include diabetics, overweight persons, those who use drugs and alcohol, repeated family history of the disease, and those who are exposed to hepatitis virus.
AST test may be performed to check the progress of treatment being administered. The ongoing treatment could be due to an existing liver disorder. Several tests may be done to closely monitor the treatment and to establish if the treatment offered is the best. Sometimes it can also be done if the symptoms of the liver disease are not showing but there is a likelihood of liver damage.
More over the test may be done to check if the medications offered are causing damage to the liver. If the medications are causing the damage they should be changed as advised by the doctor. Furthermore, the test may be done to verify if the subsequent damage to other organs such as kidney, pancreas or gallbladder is spreading down to the liver.
Causes of high AST levels
From the above discussion the major causes of High AST levels in blood are the diseases to liver, kidney and heart. Toxic substances such as drugs that prevents the proper functioning of the liver may also increase the levels of the AST even up to a hundred times against the normal range. Sudden damage to the muscle tissues may result to increased AST and the levels stays higher as compared to the liver damage. Pregnancy, burns, seizures, injection of medicine to the muscles, rapid exercise may increase the levels of AST. In some cases, high doses of Vitamin, A and using some natural products and herbs increases the levels.
AST tests can be combined with other tests to establish the accurate and real cause of the high levels so as treatment to be performed. While going for the test you should tell the doctor if you are under any medication, pregnant or if your body does not react well with some other medications. There are lesser risks when the AST is performed. You might develop an infection at the wound, fainting due to loss of blood, several prickles to get the right amount of the blood. The vein might also swell but applying a warm compress around the swollen part severally reduces the effect.